23
votes
4answers
16k views

What exactly is “なの” (nano)?

I asked a female Japanese friend to translate a sentence for me and it ends in "nano" which I took to be either an alternative question particle to -ne or -ka; or possibly two particles I don't know ...
23
votes
4answers
3k views

Why is it 日本語がわかります instead of 日本語をわかります?

From what I understand, は is the topic marker, が is the subject marker, and を is the object marker. One of the first sentences I learned doesn't seem to fit the rules I described above. The sentence ...
23
votes
1answer
898 views

Origin of the circle in ぬ, ね, and る

When looking at the hiragana ぬ (nu), ね (ne), and る (ru) one notices a small circle in the symbols. In fact that circle is the only difference when comparing them with the hiragana め (me), れ (re) and ろ ...
23
votes
4answers
3k views

What differences should I look out for between male vs female speech?

I was told a story where a male westerner learnt Japanese from his girlfriend and ended up speaking more like a female. The storyteller thought this was hilarious. What important differences should I ...
23
votes
6answers
928 views

Pluralization in Japanese: usage of -たち and -ら

I know that -たち and -ら pluralize the nouns they come after (or indicate a group that the noun is part of), but most of the time the plural in Japanese is implicit. When is it appropriate or necessary ...
23
votes
3answers
698 views

Is there a rule for when to use くらい vs ぐらい?

I see phrases like 200人ぐらい, 半々ぐらい, and 何分くらい, which seem to indicate that くらい and ぐらい are synonymous, if not interchangeable. Is there any kind of rule for deciding which to use, or is it a stylistic ...
23
votes
3answers
1k views

Why doesn't 分かる have a potential form?

This question may be related to What does で分かる mean? (Cf. Tsuyoshi Ito and my comments to my answer). (Regular) verbs can be turned into the potential form by attaching -((ra)r)e-: tabe-ru vs. ...
23
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the difference between 大事 (daiji) and 大切 (taisetsu)?

These are two words that seem like they are basically interchangeable at most levels, as they generally are. The difference between them appears to be small, but what is the difference, if one exists? ...
22
votes
2answers
2k views

Why is は pronounced as わ when used as a topic particle?

The particle は is pronounced similarly to わ (unlike the rest of the ハ行 kana) when used as a particle; why is this? What historical shifts went on to cause this irregularity?
22
votes
4answers
1k views

Differences between 度 and 回 when counting occurrences

What are the differences between using 度 and 回 when used to count number of occurrences? For example: そんなことは一度もしたことがない そんなことは一回もしたことがない Are there any restrictions on what kind of actions referred ...
22
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the difference in nuance between 間違う and 間違える?

I've heard from a Japanese native speaker friend of mine that both 間違う and 間違える are correct usage, but he wasn't able to explain the difference in nuance between them. Is there a difference, and if ...
22
votes
2answers
357 views

When should either 「」 and 『』 be used?

In what scenarios would you use 「」 quotation marks instead of 『』, and vice versa?
22
votes
1answer
585 views

How is the wind related to illness?

I've seen the kanji 風 appear in several different illnesses: 風邪 (a cold), 中風 (paralysis), and 痛風 (gout). Conceivably there may be others, but I haven't seen them. What does the wind have to do with ...
21
votes
9answers
5k views

What to say after someone sneezes

It's happened several times: I'll be chattering away with a friend in Japanese, and they'll sneeze, and without even thinking about it I'll revert back to English to say "bless you." Is there a set ...
21
votes
5answers
798 views

Modern names of the obsolete kana ゑ and ゐ

In modern Japanese, the kana ゑ/ヱ (we) and ゐ/ヰ (wi) are largely obsolete. Words formerly containing them now are pronounced with /e/ and /i/, so they were replaced by え and い, respectively. But when ...
21
votes
3answers
4k views

How can I differentiate between feet and legs?

Feet are 足, and legs are also 足. Is there a word or method with which I can easily talk about one and not the other? And if not, why is there no word for feet in the Japanese language? Caveat: I ...
21
votes
4answers
1k views

不 and 非 and 無 and 未 usage difference/rule

Is there any rules that govern when to use 不 and 非 and 無 and 未 in regards to the meaning of "not" or "un-" for instance 非表示, 不満 
21
votes
3answers
6k views

My teacher wrote a triangle on my Japanese homework. What does it mean?

One of my Japanese senseis corrected my homework, and several times she drew a triangle next to the item she was correcting. Does this have a special meaning in Japan?
21
votes
4answers
11k views

Why was both katakana and hiragana created?

Nowadays, katakana tends to be used for gairaigo and onomatopoeia, while hiragana tends to be used for native Japanese words. This is a slight simplification - more information is available here. ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the difference between -さ and -み suffixes to make a noun out of an adjective?

For example, both 悲しさ and 悲しみ are glossed as “sadness” in JMdict. What's the difference? According to A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, 〜み “is more emotive and concrete characterization of some ...
21
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the difference between “家” (ya), “屋” (ya), and “や” (ya) as used in the names of shops/stores/restaurants?

As a gyudon addict I have noticed that the names of the three major national restaurant chains all end in "ya" but they used two different characters: "吉野家" (Yoshinoya) "松屋" (Matsuya) "すき家" (Sukiya) ...
20
votes
6answers
3k views

Why the “H” is pronounced as “Sh” in some cases?

My first question is about the rules of pronunciation of the letter "H". Some people pronounce the "H" as if it were "Sh". For example, "Shijutsu" instead of "Hijutsu", or "Shiyori" instead of ...
20
votes
3answers
6k views

The many ways to say “and” in Japanese

In English, we just have one word for the conjunction and which works just fine for many categories, but in Japanese, there are separate words: と joins nouns together in a closed list や joins nouns ...
20
votes
4answers
8k views

What is 「々」 and how does it affect meaning and pronunciation?

I've seen this symbol in various places, such as 「日々」, 「色々」, and 「人々」. What is it, and how does it affect the meaning and pronunciation of the word?
20
votes
2answers
592 views

Why is 二十歳 pronounced はたち?

二十歳 is a (to me) bizarre exception to the usual number+さい rule for discussing age. Is this rooted in 20 being the Japanese age of majority? Added: To be more specific: why isn't it pronounced にじゅうさい ...
20
votes
1answer
800 views

Did ありがとう come from Portuguese “obrigado”?

I have heard before that ありがとう came from the word "obrigado" in Portuguese. Is this true and is there any evidence to support this, or is it an old wives' tale?
20
votes
3answers
3k views

Contrasting っぽい、らしい、みたい

For example, the following 3: 女っぽい (おんなっぽい) 女らしい (おんならしい) 女みたい (おんなみたい) In what situations would you use っぽい over らしい? Does っぽい have negative connotations? Are 女らしい and 女みたい interchangeable as in ...
20
votes
1answer
1k views

Do Japanese writers use underline for emphasis?

Do Japanese writers use underline to emphasize a point, or other techniques? Wikipedia mentions the use of katakana in its article on Emphasis and in its article on Katakana, but I'm not sure whether ...
20
votes
2answers
3k views

What are the guidelines of omitting particles?

I've recently discovered that certain particles could be omitted from a Japanese sentence (to help make it shorter), and still preserve the original meaning. Unfortunately, most resources about this ...
20
votes
4answers
3k views

What are the main differences between 京都弁(Kyoto-ben) and 大阪弁(Osaka-ben)

These two dialects will sound very similar to an untrained ear. Can anyone highlight the main differences between these two dialects?
20
votes
3answers
687 views

Use of 自分【じぶん】as a personal pronoun in direct speech

Yay, yet another first-person-pronoun question! I know that 自分 is commonly used as a personal pronoun in indirect speech, e.g.: マイクは、自分はなんと不注意なのだろうと言った。→ Mike said that he was very careless. ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

Kanji for native Japanese concepts: Kun'yomi spanning multiple morphemes

There are a few words, which are written with Kanji imported from China, but where the intended native Japanese meaning would prefer a different choice of Kanji. My favourite examples are 雷 vs. 神鳴り ...
19
votes
5answers
1k views

How would one convey “get over it” in Japanese?

As a foreigner in Japan, one has to get used to the fact that some Japanese will compliment you on things that are too mundane to really deserve mention. Like the fact that you can use chopsticks, eat ...
19
votes
2answers
4k views

Will verbal irony and sarcasm be understood and/or appreciated?

It's a topic of debate to what extent Japanese has sarcasm and irony. In any case, Japanese speakers seem to use a whole lot less of it than English speakers. My question is: whether or not Japanese ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a list of kanji ordered by usage in novels?

I have found many lists of kanji ordered by their usage in newspapers, but are there any lists that order by their usage in novels and other fictional material? This might be useful to have because ...
19
votes
2answers
6k views

Is ending question sentences with の really feminine?

In What differences should I look out for between male vs female speech?, a lot of answers explicitly mention that ending question sentences with の is feminine. However, this makes very little sense ...
19
votes
3answers
5k views

What does the little っ (tsu) signify when at the end of a word?

The small っ (tsu) is usually used before a consonant to indicate gemination, less technically known as doubled consonants, which is how they are transliterated in romaji. I have seen it at the end of ...
19
votes
4answers
5k views

What is the meaning of all those “w”s in email and SNSs?

You see a lot of w and ww and even www in Twitter and casual chat. What does it mean? I've always thought it was わいわい but never found out. How is it pronounced? Here's an example from Twitter ...
19
votes
3answers
3k views

What does -komu (ー込む) at the end of a word mean?

There are loads of word in Japanese which end in 込む, like 吸い込む, 読み込む, 入り込む, 打ち込む, 売り込む, 送り込む, 押し込む. How does adding ー込む change the meaning? What is the meaning that links all these words?
19
votes
4answers
2k views

Difference between にかんして and について?

What is the difference between にかんして and について? Example usage would be much appreciated!
19
votes
2answers
648 views

Can the suffix -人 be used to express heritage?

In English, if I want to talk about my Irish heritage, I would say "I'm Irish". I have an American passport, and I've never set foot in Ireland, but I still consider myself Irish. Both sides of my ...
19
votes
1answer
1k views

What is the difference between いえ and うち?

I am trying to understand the difference between using いえ and うち. I originally drew the conclusion that うち is used for your own house and いえ for others' houses, but my Japanese teacher said that this ...
19
votes
2answers
655 views

Are bookshelves in alphabetical (kana) order in Japanese bookshops and libraries?

How are fiction books such as novels sorted on the shelves at Japanese bookshops? Kana order seems to play a small part but not the whole part. (I'm not asking about nonfiction books since those are ...
19
votes
1answer
2k views

What does っつの mean?

I recently saw 冗談だっつの. What does it っつの mean, or how does it modify the meaning of a sentence?
19
votes
1answer
670 views

What are the differences between 〜ので and 〜から?

When I was studying this, my 先生 kind of brushed over the point, and then years later, I realize that they are different, but I don't know exactly how. The only thing I understand is that ので is more ...
19
votes
2answers
2k views

The difference between が and を with the potential form of a verb.

When using the potential form of a verb, I was taught that the particle を becomes が. However, in real life this seems to not always be the case. I've even heard Japanese people use を instead of が ...
19
votes
1answer
3k views

Must do : ~なければならない vs ~なくてはいけない

What are the differences when using ~なければならない and ~なくてはいけない, or their colloquial contracted forms ~なきゃ and ~なくちゃ when saying "must do"? For example, what is the difference in the nuance and usage of ...
18
votes
8answers
2k views

Does the Japanese language only have negative terms for flirting?

I am looking for terms in the Japanese language which can describe the act of flirting in a positive light. This probably requires inventing terms to close a lexical gap, because as far as I know, all ...
18
votes
2answers
3k views

How to end a sentence in わけ

The is a certain way of talking where you can end just about anything you say in わけ. What is the sentence structure for this way of talking?
18
votes
6answers
2k views

Is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) a good measure of my Japanese language ability?

Given that there has been discussion by the Japanese government to use the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) as one of the measures by which permanent residences or citizenship might be ...

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